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Culture Books

Political follies

Nevan Sesardic (Handout)

Books

Political follies

Against rule by philosophers and professionals

Neven Sesardic’s When Reason Goes on Holiday: Philosophers in Politics (Encounter, 2016) is one of those thoroughly secular books that supports a crucial Biblical understanding: Not only our bodies but our brains are fallen and naturally sinful. 

Philosophy professor Sesardic shows how prominent philosophers “admired for their scholarly contributions actually abandoned reason altogether once they turned to politics.” He notes well-known examples: Jean-Paul Sartre, Bertrand Russell, and Ludwig Wittgenstein championed Communism; Martin Heidegger and Kurt Gödel danced with Nazism; and Michel Foucault cheered on Iran’s Islamists. Particularly valuable are his chapters on those lesser known outside philosophical circles: Otto Neurath, Rudolf Carnap, Michael Dummett, Hilary Putnam, Donald Davidson, and so on. 

Even Albert Einstein defended the murderous Josef Stalin at times. Sesardic asks how highly intelligent people could be so stupid and why “it is precisely such very smart individuals who are especially prone to exhibit certain types of irrationality? What if there are follies that often spare ordinary people while more easily afflicting exactly those who are exceptionally bright, highly educated, and presumed to be extraordinarily sophisticated?”

Economist Dambisa Moyo wrote Dead Aid, an excellent book on how not to help the African poor, but she falters in Edge of Chaos (Basic, 2018) as she proposes “weighting votes by voters’ knowledge of civics, age, or professional qualifications.” She proposes one vote for all but more for those who scored higher on a civics test. Or, “weighting could also be tied to one’s professional qualifications (such as certification as a doctor, teacher, lawyer, and so forth), employment status (such as being an administrator of a hospital, manager, or CEO), and level of educational attainment, on the assumption that excelling in these domains makes one more likely to make well-informed choices in the voting booth.” Does it? 

BOOKMARKS

David Bahnsen is my fine financial manager, so I will not praise his Crisis of Responsibility (Post Hill, 2018) as I otherwise would, except to say that he has excellent insights into housing, education, labor, and tax policy. 

Daniel Darling’s The Dignity Revolution (Good Book Company, 2018) doesn’t contend that we have dignity because of our reason: We have dignity because God made us, so we mess up when we imagine, unreasonably, that we made ourselves. Darling thoughtfully comes to grips with abortion, euthanasia, race, immigration, poverty, justice, sexuality, and marriage: He shows that evangelicals are and should be more than an interest group defending our turf. 

Anyone who yearns for a return to Obama administration foreign policy should read David Kirkpatrick’s Into the Hands of the Soldiers (Viking, 2018). The New York Times correspondent’s street-level look at the failure of Arab Spring in Egypt castigates the Obama administration for contributing to the return of authoritarian rule in Egypt.

John Lennox’s Determined to Believe? (Zondervan, 2017) comes down in the evangelical middle on questions involving God’s sovereignty, man’s freedom and responsibility, and faith. Daniel Ritchie’s My Affliction for His Glory (Kirkdale, 2018) is the story of how a man born without arms realized that God had given him dignity and creativity. 

The football season has begun, and Rob Maaddi’s Birds of Pray (Zondervan, 2018) profiles Philadelphia Eagles players including quarterbacks Carson Wentz and Nick Foles. Foles describes his roller coaster ride to last year’s Super Bowl victory in Believe It (Tyndale, 2018). 

Anyone who takes Foles’ triumph as evidence for a prosperity gospel should read Paul Tripp’s journey through agony in Suffering: Gospel Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense, and anyone who thinks our purpose in life is to prosper economically should read Tripp’s Redeeming Money: How God Reveals and Reorients Our Hearts (both books are Crossway, 2018). 

John Perkins, the great proponent of racial reconciliation, knows that part of God’s purpose for us is to realize that all humans are “one blood, all created from one man, Adam”—and Perkins’ One Blood (Moody, 2018) has his “parting words to the Church on race.” —M.O.